Not a typical year-end review

By Jeff Fournier

Remember when television shows had 26 or more episodes? Well, you may also recall that during that time period, there was usually one episode that would recap all of the previous episodes that were shown throughout the season. This episode was edited and enhanced to produce a so-called, “brand new show”. I always suspected that these flashback episodes were nothing more than a ploy to save the networks time (not having to produce another new show) and money.

That being said, I am not a fan of your typical “year-in-review” formula for media of any type. I believe that instead of a recap, readers of print publications at least, might better appreciate some thoughts about what made the previous year different from any other. In relation to numismatics, perhaps a look at how certain events impacted the hobby might better serve the community, along with an analysis of events after they have settled out a bit.

There are also some coin-related news items, such as new issues, that saw only limited coverage in the press, so some of these might be worthy of a little more attention now.

AUCTION ACTION

It is not unusual for numismatic auctions to be held in any given year; but it is in no way common to see the quality of items that appeared in the 2015 Legacy auctions. A lot of media coverage was afforded this event, but one aspect that may have been missed about it – and about many other auctions held in 2015 – was the number of bidders and buyers who used the phone or internet to participate. Although actual attendance at the physical auctions may have declined from previous years, the bidding and prices realized did not see an equivalent reduction. This trend is likely to continue in the years ahead.

Astute collectors may have noticed as well, that with ever improving graphic programs, photo editing software, photographic equipment and other advancements in printing, the auction catalogues are being produced in ever-higher quality, with superb and generous photos and graphics that make them more useful to the absent bidder/buyer and for that matter, future researchers who will make use of them.

A FEW UNREPORTED
ISSUES

Remember when new issues of commemorative medals, municipal tokens and other pieces were regularly reported in Canadian Coin News? Although it may seem that these types of numismatic items have disappeared, they are still around and still being issued, although not in the quantities that they once were, back in the heyday of municipal currency.

The ONA and RCNA issued their usual convention medals in 2015. And other clubs such as the Scarborough Coin Club, Troyak Coin Club in Mississauga and the Timmins Coin Club issued medals as well.

The Timmins Coin Club piece was unreported in CCN. It was issued in limited numbers and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the club. Medals were struck in seven different finishes including (mintages in parentheses): Satin gold finish (100), Antiqued bronze finish (five), Bright copper finish (five), Satin nickel finish (five), Antiqued silver finish (five), Bright gold finish (five) and antiqued copper finish (five).

A medal was also issued depicting the famous Hopewell Rocks located in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. It is currently available at the Hopewell Rocks Park gift shop. The tides in Fundy rise and fall by as much as 14 to 16 metres  – twice daily – and are quite impressive to behold.

An unreported commemorative medal featuring the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) was was produced in 2015. The medal was issued in seven different finishes including:

Black nickel finish (50), Satin gold finish (25), Antiqued bronze finish (10), bright copper finish (five), Satin nickel finish (25) and Antiqued copper finish (10).

This is the first time that a black nickel finish has been used on a commemorative medal and it is quite impressive, giving the piece the appearance of a finely polished black rock.

The SNO is located two kilometres underground at Vale’s Creighton Mine in Sudbury and was opened in 1998 to shed light on dark matter – one of physics’ more perplexing unresolved questions. The SNO results that were obtained from this research project, have provided revolutionary insight into the properties of neutrinos and the core of the sun. The underground location shields out cosmic radiation which would play havoc with the laboratory’s light detectors. The detector, shown on the medal reproduced here, is a heavy-water Cherenkov detector designed to detect neutrinos produced by fusion reactions in the sun.

It used 1000 tonnes of heavy water loaned from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), and is contained by a 12 metre diameter acrylic vessel. Neutrinos reacted with the heavy water to produce flashes of light called Cherenkov radiation. This light was then detected by an array of 9,600 photomultiplier tubes mounted on a geodesic support structure surrounding the heavy water vessel. Phase one of the project is complete and the SNO is now shut down. Phase two of the project is planned for the future.

THIRD PARTY
GRADING

When professional coin grading services first came on to the scene and began gaining limited acceptance in the 1980s, a number of collectors and dealers were quite skeptical. Some thought that ‘slabbed’ coins would lead to the demise of the hobby (so named because of the plastic casing produced by the Professional Coin Certification Service (pcgs) in the U.S.) “They’ll take the fun out of the hobby.” “Slabbing will never last.” “Professionally graded and sealed coins will look ugly next to the ungraded coins in my collection.” These were some of the actual comments gleaned from collectors and dealers at the time, regarding certified coins.

Fast forward to 2015…….Not only are professionally graded coins widely accepted, they are now ubiquitous and really a non-issue (in case you haven’t noticed – which isn’t likely). Lines  of coin holders and displays that are designed especially for certified coins are also abundant: so much for the “ugly” branding of the certified coins!

Furthermore, anyone attending coin shows this year may have noticed that more and more dealers who specialize in currency – and even those who don’t – are carrying certified banknotes in their stock as well. Buying and selling certified coins and currency has certainly simplified coin grading for the average collector.

ONLINE BUYING
NOT SLOWING

For years now, the number of people making online purchases has been increasing. When eBay came into being in the 1990’s, a whole new industry was created. In the field of numismatics, it has made some pretty big impacts.

This year, more than any other, I’ve really noticed those impacts – some good and some not so good. First, on the positive side of things, eBay brought a tremendous amount of material out in 2015 that rarely, if ever surfaced in the past. Everyone, from every corner of the globe seemed to be ebaying and therefore, accessibility to numismatic material greatly increased.

Also in 2015, so-called conventional dealers (those that sell from a storefront or at shows) seemed to be working with the eBay dealers to move product, more so than in the past. Previously, the approach to these online dealers was a bit more adversarial. It would seem that the relationships among the various ‘kinds’ of dealers are becoming win-win affairs, which is good for everyone involved.  Conventional dealers have been turning to eBay themselves to acquire and sell items. The classified auction firm,  too, just like certified coins, is now ubiquitous.

On the negative side, collectors are still relying a little too heavily on eBay and other online markets for information (which is often inaccurate). Prices posted vary widely between dealers on eBay and an estimated or starting bid is a far cry from the actual hammer price. Claims of ‘unique’, ‘scarce’ and ‘rare’ are used far too freely online. Take note CCN readers!

What’s in store for 2016 on the numismatic front? I’ll just check my crystal ball and will get right back to you on that!

Jeff Fournier recently joined Canadian Coin News as a regular contributor and consulting editor. He can be reached at jfournier14@gmail.com.

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